Fundamental understanding of the ecology of kelp forests is lacking in many regions. New MBA research in the journal Scientific Reports addresses this knowledge gap by quantifying the rate of productivity of kelp forests across UK waters.
Fieldwork took place on kelp forests (Laminaria hyperborea) at multiple subtidal habitats in the UK spanning 9° of latitude.
The research measured a range of environmental factors and quantified kelp productivity. Lead author Dan Smale and his team showed that net primary productivity was greater in cooler water, (around 1.5 times greater in the northern sites compared to warm southernmost sites) with clear implications for warming seas.
Dr Smale said: "The study shows that these kelp forests are extremely productive and likely to be an important component of inshore carbon cycles, and may play a role in natural carbon sequestration (i.e. Blue Carbon) as efficient donors of organic matter. Crucially, we showed that sea temperature and light availability are important drivers of primary productivity, in that kelp forests in the cool clear waters around northern Scotland were the most productive and captured, stored and released the most carbon. As such, if coastal waters continue to warm or water quality decreases and becomes more turbid, we expect the productivity of these marine forests to decline."
Read more about the fieldwork and research here.
Follow Dr Smale on Twitter: @DanSmale1